Taking pictures of Russian locals
Taking pictures of Russian locals Vladimir Reviews
Don't judge too soon Aug 08, 2007
While in most countries local people have no problem being photographed by strangers, it’s a different deal in Russia. No matter how nicely you ask permission to take their picture, it is not uncommon the person in question won’t even answer you and grumpily turn their back toward you or hide his or her face while quickly walking away.
Even though the Russians generally speaking are a bit grouchy by nature, it is useful to know a bit about their history before judging their ‘strange’ behavior when it comes to having their picture taken by tourists.
In 1929, Stalin founded ‘Intourist’, the official state travel agency. This company (which by the way still exists, even though it has been privatized in 1992) was responsible to carefully control and manage all foreigners in Russia.
The main idea behind this, was that foreign tourism would be an excellent pro Soviet propaganda vehicle. Especially in the fifties, sixties and seventies, all places foreign tourists would visit were strictly regulated, providing them a positive view of the Soviet Union and its culture, economics and common life style. Tourists guides were well trained with academic background and special courses.
Of course, all contact with local people was brought to a bare minimum. If a Russian person was somehow seen talking to a foreign tourist while the person wasn’t trained and brainwashed according to government standards, or if any proof was found of some unauthorized interaction with for instance a picture, this person got into trouble. It wasn’t uncommon special ‘spies’ travelled with the group of tourists to make sure no unauthorized locals would make contact with the foreigners. Therefore especially older people still have no intention whatsoever to come near a tourist to this day, even though it is no longer forbidden to talk with a foreigner.
I got this information from a Russian local while I was travelling. When I got back home I started looking up things, but all I could find were some descriptions on Intourist and a few papers on how the Soviet Union ‘handled’ western tourism. If I am wrong on this subject, please forgive me and feel free to correct me.
Part of the Western Russia 2007 travel blog
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